Meeting documents

SSDC South Somerset District Council
Thursday, 25th March, 2021 6.30 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting using Zoom meeting software. View directions

Contact: Angela Cox, Democratic Services Specialist - 01935 462148  Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Neil Bloomfield, Malcolm Cavill (dispensation granted, Louise Clarke, Mike Hewiston, Henry Hobhouse, Michael Lewis, Wes Read, David Recardo, Dean Ruddle, Rob Stickland and Linda Vijeh.



To approve and sign the minutes of the previous meeting held on Thursday, 25 February 2021.


The minutes of the Council meeting held on 25th February 2021, copies of which had been previously circulated, were approved as a correct record of the meeting and would be signed by the Chairman.


Declarations of Interest

In accordance with the Council's current Code of Conduct (as amended 26 February 2015), which includes all the provisions relating to Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI), personal and prejudicial interests, Members are asked to declare any DPI and also any personal interests (and whether or not such personal interests are also "prejudicial") in relation to any matter on the Agenda for this meeting.

Members are reminded that they need to declare the fact that they are also a member of a County, Town or Parish Council as a Personal Interest.  Where you are also a member of Somerset County Council and/or a Town or Parish Council within South Somerset you must declare a prejudicial interest in any business on the agenda where there is a financial benefit or gain or advantage to Somerset County Council and/or a Town or Parish Council which would be at the cost or to the financial disadvantage of South Somerset District Council. 


Councillor Karl Gill declared a personal interest in Agenda item 6: Octagon Theatre Development.


Public Question Time


A local resident speaking on behalf of Extinction Rebellion South Somerset asked what the council were planning to do about the permission granted to Conrad Energy to build 2 gas burning "peaker" power plants in Yeovil and Crewkerne, in the light of SSDC’s declared Climate Emergency and the Somerset Climate Emergency Strategy?  She said that she had submitted her question earlier in the week and had received a response from officers which said they would contact Conrad Energy to pass on the concerns about the impact of the sites and she asked if officers could be relied upon to do this?


Councillor Sarah Dyke, as Portfolio Holder for Environment thanked the resident for raising the matter and said that she was concerned that the power plants had been granted planning permission however, the Council were updating their Local Plan which would be more in line with the Council’s adopted Environment Strategy.  She said that she had asked officers to seek more detail from developers at an early stage of planning applications to consider their environmental impacts.  She concluded that the response by officers should give assurance that the matter was being taken seriously and Conrad Energy would be contacted and she said that Extinction Rebellion would be kept updated.


A local resident spoke in support of the Octagon Theatre development.  He outlined the history of the founder of the theatre, his great grandfather, Stanley Johnson, who generously assisted many projects within Yeovil. He said the opportunity to develop the Octagon Theatre was part of a cultural renaissance for rural theatres and was well timed. The value to the local economy and the community and the outreach and educational programmes benefits were huge and it would allow the very best theatre for the south west.


The Chairman thanked the resident for his supportive comments.


Chairman's Announcements


The Chairman thanked the Council’s Monitoring Officer, Richard Ward, and the Councils Section 151 Officer, Jo Nacey, for their service to the Council during the past 12 months.


The Chairman noted that the last in-person Council meeting had been just over 12 months ago and he had since chaired 9 virtual meetings.  He said the country was now in its third lock-down period during a very difficult year and over 126,000 people had died from Covid-19 in the UK.  People had lost friends and relatives and businesses had suffered hardships.  He asked that Members observe a minute silence for those who had died and suffered during the past year.


A minute of silence was observed.


Octagon Theatre Development pdf icon PDF 419 KB

Additional documents:




That Full Council agreed to:-



note the confidential appendices, including the report by Charcoal Blue and associated business case documents, to refurbish the existing site and facilities; and to extend the site with both additional educational and income earning facilities, which will assist in repaying the costs of the proposed project over time;




approve the underwriting of the project costs by SSDC, of up to £23.01m, to be offset by grant funding applications, yet to be applied for; and £10million of government funding already allocated in the March 2021 budget, (subject to accepting and meeting terms and conditions, which are yet to be received);




delegate authority to a Project Board that consists of the Portfolio Holder for Health & Well-Being (Chair), the Leader of the Council, the Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, the Portfolio Holder for Finance & Legal Services, the Director of Commercial Services and S151 Officer to progress the project, take appropriate decisions for the project governance set up and reporting arrangements to District Executive on project progress;




approve the cashflow forecast in the business plan.



To agree to refurbish and develop The Octagon Theatre and underwrite the full value of the project, up to £23.01 million (excluding VAT that is recoverable in respect of this project), subject to the successful application for various forms of grant funding which would partially offset the overall project costs.

(Voting: unanimous in favour)


The Portfolio Holder for Health and Well-Being thanked the public speaker for their support for the project.  He noted that following investigation, VAT would not be applicable on the project and a grant of £10m had been allocated from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to be managed by the Arts Council for England. 


The Arts and Entertainment Venues Manager provided Members with a short presentation on the proposals for the Octagon Theatre.  Although the venue was currently closed, he hoped that it would re-open soon.  He introduced representatives of Charcoal Blue and DCA Consultants who had assisted in developing the business plan.  They noted that:-

·         audience numbers had doubled over the past 10 years with visitors coming from across the south west. 

·         the theatre was in need of upgrading and modernising generally

·         there were no disabled facilities back-stage so accessibility needed to be addressed.

·         the seat capacity would be increased to 900 with the construction of a circle.

·         national and international touring companies would be attracted to the new improved venue.

·         a new accessible entrance from the car park would be created.

·         green building materials and a sustainable design would be used to meet the Councils environmental objectives.

·         a cinema, community space and outreach work was proposed. 

·         a fly tower would attract West End productions.

·         amateur and community groups which used the theatre were key and it was important that they were retained. 


The Arts and Entertainment Venues Manager concluded by outlining the funding sources for the project, including a repayable loan and a ticket levy.  He also outlined the economic impact to the wider community of the proposal and the arts engagement and outreach service across the district.


In response to questions, the Arts and Entertainment Venues Manager advised:


·         the Arts needed to more to reach a wider audience and for more people to experience the theatre. 

·         Tickets currently started at £5.00 and the school visits to the annual pantomime were important and were often supported by the schools PTA.

·         Education and outreach would be developed further and some concerts were free for schools to attend.

·         Abri Housing subsidised theatre tickets for their residents.

·         There was a ticket levy for the Westland complex (currently £1.50) and also one for the Octagon Theatre (currently £1.00).

·         SSDC would underwrite the project to £12.76m through a loan.

·         The Octagon Theatre currently received a subsidy from SSDC but it was envisaged that would not be required in the future.


The Director for Commercial Services and Income Generation confirmed that part of the de-carbonisation grant funding which the Council had recently been awarded would be used to install green energy efficient measures during the development work.


The Chairman said that the meeting could retire to a confidential session if there were any specific questions raised on the confidential business plan.


During discussion, several Members voiced their support for the project which they felt could attract new businesses to the town.


At the conclusion of the debate, the Portfolio Holder for Health and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 251.


Appointment of an Interim Section 151 Officer pdf icon PDF 251 KB




That Council agreed to formally appoint Karen Watling as Interim Section 151 Officer with immediate effect, for an initial period of up to 6 months.


To approve the interim appointment of one of the Council’s Statutory Roles, the Section 151 Officer.

(Voting: unanimous in favour)


The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Legal Services advised that the Council were obliged to appoint a Section 151 officer to ensure that the necessary financial roles and functions were delivered effectively.  He proposed that Karen Watling be appointed as interim Section 151 officer for 6 months and this was seconded by Councillor Val Keitch. 


A named vote was taken and Members unanimously confirmed Karen Watling as the interim Section 151 officer for SSDC with immediate effect. 



That Council agreed to formally appoint Karen Watling as Interim Section 151 Officer with immediate effect, for an initial period of up to 6 months.


To approve the interim appointment of one of the Council’s Statutory Roles, the Section 151 Officer.

(Voting: unanimous in favour)


Report of Executive Decisions pdf icon PDF 119 KB

Additional documents:


The report of Executive Decisions was noted.



There were no Motions submitted by Members.


There were no Motions submitted by Members.


Questions Under Procedure Rule 10

There were no questions submitted under Procedure Rule 10.


There were no questions submitted under Procedure Rule 10.


Date of Next Meeting pdf icon PDF 121 KB

Members are asked to note that the next scheduled meeting of Full Council will take place on Thursday 15 April commencing at 6.30pm.


Members noted that the next meeting of the Full Council would be held on Thursday, 15th April 2021 as a virtual meeting using Zoom meeting software commencing at 6.30 p.m.